Germany Steps Up Virus Checks at French Border to Fight Variants

Germany imposed a Covid-19 test requirement along a stretch of the French border to fight the spread of virus mutations, underscoring the pandemic’s threat to maintaining open borders in the European Union.

While avoiding the kind of full-scale border controls that have irked Austria and the Czech Republic, the policy means people entering Germany from France’s Moselle department will be subject to police spot checks in the hinterland, an Interior Ministry spokesman in Berlin said Sunday.

Germany’s Robert Koch Institute health agency has declared Moselle a region with an elevated incidence of virus variants, meaning travelers entering Germany from Moselle will have to be able to present a negative Covid-19 test no older than 48 hours. France unveiled similar measures for its side of the regional border last week.

French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune earlier Sunday expressed concern that Germany was considering an end to borderless travel in the region. “We don’t want that,” he said on France Inter. The German Interior Ministry spokesman later said “no border controls are foreseen.”

The tightening affects about 120 kilometers (75 miles) of border between Moselle and the German state of Saarland. Germany’s measures take effect on Tuesday, the Saarbruecker Zeitung newspaper quoted Saarland state government spokesman Alexander Zeyer as saying.

The reciprocal measures by the EU’s two biggest economies are less onerous than border restrictions Germany imposed on two other neighbors two weeks ago, when entry to Germany from the Czech Republic and Austria’s Tyrol province was restricted to German citizens and residents. More-infectious variants of the coronavirus are widespread in those two areas.

Moselle is the only French mainland department where the so-called South African variant is spreading rapidly, prompting French authorities to impose additional restrictions including a weekend curfew.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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